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One dead, six hurt in blast at sewer plant

Associated Press
Published January 12, 2006

DAYTONA BEACH - One worker was killed and six suffered injuries in an explosion Wednesday at a wastewater treatment plant that was undergoing hurricane repairs.

Daytona Beach officials said Eric Johnson, 59, of Orange City died in the blast at the city's Bethune Point treatment plant. Johnson was the lead maintenance mechanic at the plant and had worked for the city for more than 20 years, said Susan Cerbone, spokeswoman for the city.

Clyde Jones, 40, and Michael Martin, 42, both of Daytona Beach, received severe burns. They were in critical condition in the Orlando Regional Medical Center's burn center, Cerbone said.

The blast engulfed the treatment plant in flames shortly before noon as employees repairing a metal roof damaged by last year's hurricanes were using a cutting torch near methanol and sodium sulfate tanks, said Lt. John King, spokesman for Daytona Beach Fire Department.

Firefighters had to fight the fire from a distance with unmanned hoses because of concerns about chemical vapors, King said.

Three other victims were taken to Halifax Medical Center for decontamination and assessment. They did not have life-threatening injuries, and one was soon released, said Halifax spokeswoman Melanie Nelson. The extent of injury to the sixth man was not immediately known.

Methanol, an alcohol used to remove nitrates from wastewater, is highly flammable. Sodium sulfate is a nonflammable powder normally used in treatment plants to neutralize chlorine.

[Last modified January 12, 2006, 01:21:24]

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